I have broad interests in all aspects of plant-insect interactions and biological pest control. I am particularly interested in plant-omnivore interactions in plant-associated food webs and its ecological consequences in different plant systems.
My PhD work (at the University of Amsterdam) focused on plant responses induced by plant feeding of the omnivorous predator Macrolophus pygmaeus in greenhouse crops (sweet pepper) and its effects on performance of herbivores, other natural enemies and plants. I found that plant feeding by omnivorous predators can induce plant defences that decrease the performance of herbivore pests and attract other natural enemies of herbivore pests. The present of omnivores on plants also alters the plant performance by changing plant phenology and plant fitness (in term of seeds production).
My research at SLU focus on the dual function of omnivorous predators as predators and plant vaccinators (defence inducers) against herbivore pests in both perennial and annual plant systems. I identify the advantages and possible disadvantages of using omnivores in plant protection against insect pests in both plant systems. I collaborate with researchers with different expertise from SLU, Umeå University and Wageningen University (The Netherlands).
Wageningen University (The Netherlands)
Zhang NX, Messelink GJ, Sunny Verdonkschot, Janssen A. (2019) Plant feeding by an omnivorous predator affects plant phenology and omnivore performance. Biol Control 135:66-72.
Zhang NX, Daan van Wieringen, Messelink GJ, Janssen A. (2019). Herbivores avoid host plants previously exposed to their omnivorous predator Macrolophus pygmaeus. J Pest Sci. 92 (2): 737-745.
Zhang NX. (2018) What omnivores don’t eat: Nonconsumptive ecological effects of phytophagy by Macrolophus pygmaeus (PhD thesis). University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Zhang NX, Messelink GJ, Alba JM, et al. (2018). Phytophagy of omnivorous predator Macrolophus pygmaeus affects performance of herbivores through induced plant defences. Oecologia 186:101–113.
Researcher ID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5002-6223